tv [untitled] February 20, 2012 6:30pm-6:59pm EST
she would have wanted emblazoned on the front of the book is this was later in time, and this might not have tracked with her feelings later on, and later on she said she came to resume her old fondness with lbj, she was very close to ladybird, so i think one thing you always have to remember when you're reading this book is that some of the more fascinating opinions she didn't always keep them years later. >> one interesting insight into his political temperament -- and dick, this is almost opposite of the story about onionsburg where everyone remembered which side you were on in 1956 -- but she said he had a wonderful magnonimity, he forgave everyone. it was a little self-serving because you never knew who you would need in the next fight, but it was a general inclination to forgiveness, and in a sense,
how he did politics? >> nobody could understand how he could forgive the senator from florida, his dear friend -- >> mathers? >> george mathers? >> john, who stabbed him in the back. >> the administrative voting record was about 2%? >> yes. and whenever you needed his vote, you couldn't have it, and then you would find the president inviting him to the white house for dinner. and we frequently complained about it, which did us absolutely no good because he continued to entertain him. and happily, he determined that his career was not going to be furthered in politics and he got out. yet there were those -- you couldn't really not why he could be so charitable to them. but he was forgiving, and his mode -- modus operandi was that
you might need him tomorrow so you better not stab him in the back today. >> and she says i used to tell him, why are you being so nice to that guy? i've been hating him for the last three weeks because of what he did to you. and the president said, oh, no, he did such and such last week, which was actually very good. and the thing he says to her is never close out a relationship so there's no possibility of reconciliation. i do hope everybody in washington right now will read that sentence and take it to heart. [ applause ] michael, the term soft power has been in vogue for nearly a decade, and i believe caroline uses the phrase in her foreword, and i don't know if there ever was a first lady before or since that had that kind of ability to
change people's attitudes around the world towards the united states. and even if she doesn't talk about her political thought as much as we might like in these interviews, there is still -- there is clearly the sense she was getting a great deal done to support the administration, in her choice of countries to visit, her choice of how to present herself, all the cultural work she was doing. was there anything like that before her? >> she really could see around corners and see things that others couldn't see. one of them was latin america, which then and later on, got very short shrift from american presidents. she thought it was important they went to costa rica, they went to mexico, they traveled there. one of the most poignant things in the book is she talks about a newspaper headline that mrs. kennedy was actually nice enough to shake hands with little
children from latin american countries because that was so unusual at the time. one thing both jack and jackie kennedy both felt was that one test of american power is the number of missiles and nuclear weapons and so on, but oftentimes just as important as how people think about america and their heart, that's what the peace corps was about. >> there's some wonderfully undiplomatic statements in this book. >> one or two? >> one or two, thank goodness. i learned she named her poodle de gaulle in the 1950s. >> that was my footnote. she should not be held responsible for that. >> did those surprise you? >> when she says she came to have the same, i think, opinion of french people as she did of people in wisconsin? >> and i think sort of for the same reasons, because wisconsin did not ultimately vote overwhelmingly for john kennedy, and the french, particularly
charles de gaulle, was giving her husband a great deal of trouble. so i think you can see these things to a great extent as a great test of loyalty. >> there is some beautiful language as well in the account of the cuban missile crisis. she said there was no day and no night. >> no difference between sleeping and waking. i thought that was so signalled, because one of the toughest things in the story is to find out what someone -- two things -- one, the depth of his or her religious beliefs, particular the the president, and also the true nature of a marriage. and she described the cuban missile crisis, that they were together probably more during that period than perhaps any other time during that presidency. he would call her and they would go for walks on the lawn, spent a lot of time together, and that does tell you something. you were mentioning franklin roosevelt. he admired eleanor, but when he was at a moment of great anxiety, i don't think he would
have found her restful or supportive company, probably would not have spent a lot of time with her in a crisis like this. in the case of jfk, whom does he turn to? it's jackie. >> were there any parts of this cd set and book, dick, that surprised you that revealed new sides to president kennedy? >> not really, but i must say that i was marvelled at her concern about, for instance, the remodeling of the white house. the detail that she went to and that she had the research that she did, and then her ability to administer it is really overwhelming. i just don't -- can't believe that a person could do it on short notice, unless she had been planning it for much longer than we know. >> and i think it was the depth of her reaction when she came to the white house and had a lovely
experience with mrs. eisenhower who did not paint her terribly well. you'll have to read it in the book have you haven't seen it yet. but she was shown through the staterooms and she said they looked like bianca or a bad convention hotel, but there was a reason for that, which was when the white house was reconstructed during the truman administration because of falling down, they scooped everything out of the inside and built new floors and so on. they ran out of money, so harry truman characteristically made a deal with b.altmans and they restructured the whole floor of the white house. and it looked that way. sometimes the restoration of the white house is sort of written off as interior decoration or just sort of superficial. she had to raise this money, which was not easy, she had to keep particularly to three
advisers, architectural advisers, from essentially colliding with one another, harry dupont, and sister parrish, also, to some extent. so if anyone doubts her political skills, the fact that she was able to do all this, get it in on time under budget, and for the white house to look the way it does today, i think if it were not for her, the white house would still look like a bad convention hotel. ztz the eisenhowers don't come off looking terribly well. president eisenhower would walk around in his golf shoes, making little holes on the floor. maimie eisenhower is not a very sympathetic figure, but i felt a little sorry for her because having to be succeeded by jacqueline kennedy couldn't have been the easiest thing. >> i think not, but things would drift to her ears such as mrs. eisenhower saying of the restoration, i heard they made the red room purple, things like this. >> we're at an interesting
moment in the history of publications because i wasn't sure whether to listen or read, and really between the two, you get so much more from hearing her speak. although i had one alarming moment in my car. i had them all loaded in and i accidentally left one cd from keith richards in the middle. it took a little understanding. >> i would think she would love that, wouldn't she? >> where do you think her reederee readers, or are they even readers? >> when you read it, i think you can perhaps absorb what is said a little bit more. but when you listen, i think you're absolutely right, ted, and this is probably true of most tapes of its kind, you get a sense -- in fact, i've heard caroline talk about this. you hear her tone of voice, there are shades and meanings you can't possibly get just from reading the words. >> we're now at the part of this
event where we are taking questions, and i have a few to begin. this is for you, dick. she talks about joseph p. kennedy and rose kennedy. you must have known those two individuals. do her impressions match with your memories of them and her interactions with them in public? >> yes. [ laughter ] >> well -- >> no, mr. kennedy was very much a dominant figure in almost everything that went on in the political life of john kennedy. his mother was even more dominant on their prayer life,
and kept after them for all the reasons good mothers do, to make them responsible children. but they kept very, very close track of what each was doing. so i would not disagree with anybody who thinks they were enormously influential. the only thing i am conscious of, however, is that ambassador kennedy couldn't influence certain people in the democratic party. i mean, people that we were supporting, he frequently did not. >> who are you thinking of? >> well, i'm just really thinking about one fight that we had, and he just was not responsible. i mean -- well, bobby was the
responsible one, and what happened was that bobby had indicted the brother of a congressman from new york. and the congressman, who had been very, very responsive to us, wanted desperately for the indictment to be withdrawn. bobby refused. there then was a talk to the ambassador who said no, he will do what he's going to do, anyway. so it caused us some pain but not a great deal. but it's the type of thing in which they would differ. and if he differed, he differed, because one strong rascal. >> i think about that time, the
ambassador would joke that he was one tough democrat. >> yeah. >> michael, what surprised you the most? did any assessments of key players differ from your views and those of other historians? >> sure, in all sorts of ways. but i think in a large sense the thing that really surprised me was that if we were talking a year ago, i would have said that she was a large influence during that period, but i wouldn't have particularly said she was a large political figure in this administration, and i think if you read this book, you have to say that. because the number of times she talked mainly about people, but not always only about people, and you'll notice that the people that she is very critical of wound up not doing terribly well during the administration and vice versa. to some extent, i think she was absorbed in her husband's views, but she does talk about a few cases where, for instance, she was in pakistan, which had been added to her trip to india for political reasons. and two things happened,
actually. john galbreath was the ambassador of india which kennedy had known before. it was difficult to imply that walter in pakistan have an equal but somewhat relationship with the president, and she was implying that they think a lot of each other. and the ambassador said, that's funny. i met him only once when i took this job two weeks ago. so that didn't work too terribly well. not as a result of this, but having been in pakistan and watching him in action, she went right back home and wrote her husband a memo saying, this is exactly the kind of ambassador we should not have in a job like this, and it went to the state department, and ambassador mcconnaughey served until 1966.
>> she didn't seem to get as involved in domestic politics. would you agree, dick? >> well, i don't know that she didn't get involved in domestic politics. because, for instance, the talk about the monuments from then, the s-1 dam flooding, i remember going to see the congressman from brooklyn who was in charge of appropriations. >> now, would he have been politically very eager to help egypt at that point? >> no, he was not. he was politically -- he was not at all anxious to help the president, because he fancied himself being in opposition and we could strengthen him domestically. >> john rooney? >> yeah, type.
but he was -- i went up to call him off the floor to ask him to please devote the thing that the president wanted. he said, yes, he would, but he never forgave me for it. >> i've got another question for michael. as a presidential historian, are you aware of any first lady, prior to jacqueline kennedy, who provided a candid public revelation of her experience in the white house? >> no. and one thing that you study her life, she always broke the mold, she was always in no vanovatein perhaps, pretty near the most important innovation she made was this idea that she would be asked eight and a half hours of very personal questions in great detail about her time as first lady. that had not happened before, and since then, it almost always happens. the first ladies even write books, which in those days was very unusual. >> there's not a page of this book that isn't defused with her
wit and the sense that she and president kennedy were sharing. >> there's a wonderful story, if i can interject for a second, where epsicarno from indonesia was coming from a visit. and his reputation was not the best, but they were going to make the best of it, but they would bring him upstairs to meet the first lady, which was a special thing to do for him. and epsicarno was said to have published his art collection, so mrs. kennedy got a collection of the book from the state department. about 20 minutes before he arrived, she wasn't able to read it before he got there, so epsicarno was on the sofa and she said, look, we have this
wonderful book of your art collection. and basically every page was a topless woman. and he would flip through it and say, there is my second wife. there is my third wife. and she said jack and i had to make such an enormous effort to keep from laughing and almost didn't make it. >> dick, could you tell how funny she was? >> i'll tell a funny story about her family. she was very close to her sister, who was married to the prince of poland. and he came here during the campaign, and he was very big in the polish crowd, but he was not an american citizen, he was a polish citizen. and the drive was to get him out and see the people. and this fellow who worked in the state department by the name of ms. plasenski, who was a very
powerful political figure in the polish world, so he definitely wanted stash to come to his district or to campaign. i said, mich, we can't do that. we can't have a foreign dig any ta -- dignitary campaigning. the next thing i remember is i get a call from shlopenski, last night in wilkinsbury, stash was a smash. thank you, stash. >> pennsylvania went democratic that year by a much we now know the reason. >> michael alluded to the toxic
political climate we live in now. dick, how do you think president kennedy would have negotiated within that kind of a climate? how would he have helped our system recover? >> i really do not know with this system as we have it today, where people refuse to tolerate the other person's views how we could possibly have owned up to it. when i left washington, which was a week before the president was assassinated, i had been working on the civil rights bill. we had put together with a lot of work and a lot of things, a real coalition of republicans and democrats prepared to support a real civil rights bill. it was -- and i left washington with a certain assurance that it was over.
there was no need to do it. i used to be able to name the republican congressmen that i could line up on almost any given matter because they respected president kennedy and they respected the things he stood for. you don't have any of that today. no one respects anyone else. no one will share with anyone else. i do not know how he could have fit in today's world unless he could have bombed them or something. >> and one thing that sort of does it for me is the space program. >> yeah. >> when he went to congress and, dick, i'm sure was part of this. i think a moon landing before 1970 is essential to national security. a lot of republicans did not want to spend the money. if our president tells me it is of national security, they will vote for it, which they did. >> i think we should all take from this book a measure of optimism of ways our system can
perform well. on that note -- >> all they we are not "american idol" and there is no phone to call in to place your vote, but our bookstore does report to the "new york times" best seller list. if you would like to keep jacqueline kennedy ahead of others, i ask you to remain in your seats. we will get caroline with the book signing outside this door. those of you in the satellite, there will be a line coming in from the front. those of you in this room, the line will form around the back of this wall. most of all, what i want to do is thank caroline kennedy for her comments and this terrific panel. lisa kathleen graddy is the curator for the women's
political history museum at the smithsonian. when you put together the latest exhibit, how did you decide how the gowns would be placed and what it would say about the history and role of these first ladies? >> we picked a series of gowns, partly based on what we thought was pretty and what hadn't been out in the -- sometimes it's nice to be curator, because you can just choose things. we wanted an array of color, different styles and not logical. we wanted to maximize the space and really maximize the look of each style and color of each dress against each other, to make a more pleasing picture. and i think that putting things that are far apart in time next to each other, as opposed to a slow progression, you really see the amazing difference between, say, lucy hayes, the dress with the bustle and really tight shoulders. you're not going to raise your arm above your waist.
an amazing difference that these were chronological, so far apart you wouldn't be able to see them. >> we tried to put things out that haven't been up in a while. are there gowns and items that are back in storage? >> there are some things that are back in storage that hopefully will come out in time. one of the ideas is that we can change things out here. if you're not doing every first lady, eases the pressure on the dresses. we're trying to make them survive as long as possible. and some of them have been standing around for 100 years. so, they need to rest, be out of light. and this allows us to change things around. it also specifically allows some thing that is haven't been seen before to be seen by the people. we have more in the collection than the gowns that i think -- i always think of them as being the -- specimen gowns, everyone expects to see for each first lady. sometimes we have others and
those are interesting, too. >> a lot of fanfare goes into giving up the dress. how did that come about? >> that is -- has also been a changing tradition. people always think the exhibit looked one way. actually about nine different shows, it's been changing. people think that the gown presentation always happened one way. in reality, it didn't really start until lady bird johnson. the tradition was, mass dresses to create the show. that happened, just sort of a big bolt the first time. they would ask each first lady and the ones to fill in the blanks for a dress. now, helen taft got interested in the exhibition. she was the first lady at the time and she contributed her 1909 inaugural gown. so, she set sort of the tradition of giving your inaugural gown. every first lady since then who has had an inaugural ball has given her inaugural gown.
>> has anyone ever refused or balked at the idea? >> i don't think anyone has ever refused, but edith roosevelt, who we'll see around the corner, we'll also see her inaugural gown, she didn't have a lot of patience for this. she was not first lady at the time. but she said she didn't save clothing, that she cut it up and made other things out of it. so, she did not donate anything to the collection. her daughter, however, later did. and what she donated was the inaugural gown. but mrs. roosevelt wasn't kidding. the bodice had been removed from the dress. it now has a prop bodice. >> does that give us context at the time that that was a traditional, normal thing to do? >> mrs. roosevelt said she liked to cut them up and satin gowns or silk gowns made tea gowns. it may have been a quirk of hers that she remade clothes. >> there were examples of other types of gowns here.
it seems on every occasion we're looking to see what they're wearing. >> i think, one, it's become sort of a red carpet culture that likes to look and analyze what people are wearing. there's always been an interest in first lady's fashion. people were interested in what martha washington was wearing. i think it's because we look to these clothes. we don't -- currently we probably have more exposure to the first lady and we still don't know her. most of us will never meet the first lady. so we have to figure her out based on these little clues, snippets of interviews, what she's wearing, what she served for dinner, how she entertains. we piece all that together to get an idea. the causes she promotes. we piece all that together to create a rounded view, our own view of the first lady. >> yet they're supposed to represent a sort of presidential style, if you will. if you can, explain what you think that means.
and then which first lady didn't meet public expectations when it came to that, and which ones were really praised for their style? >> i think the first lady sets the tone, the style and demeanor and tone of the presidency. she picks the china. she arranges entertainments. she's the one that sets the feeling of the presidency. she is also the most accessible partner in the presidency. so she has to decide all those entertainments that come down. she will be graded. her choices will be examined. you have to take a while to figure out -- i can't imagine how daunting it must be to come in and face your first state dinner. you have never done this before, what will you do?
they then set a tone. if they deviate from that much, did they assess it? did people like it? the white house has ebbed and flowed. it is more elegant or more casual. as the country has changed, the styles have changed with the first lady. people have reacted pro and con to each one. starting with martha washington. what is the style for democracy or republic, if you want to think of it that way. how do you command respect for a new nation? a fledgeling nation, but not look like a monarchy. how do you balance that? where do you -- what's casual and what's formal? she was addressed as lady washington. no one knew what to call her. >> who hit it out of the